The students served Camden in a variety of ways, from gardening to spending time at an adult day care. The group stayed at the Romero Center, a small retreat center, with students from Gonzaga College High School, an all-male Jesuit school in Washington, D.C.
“In previous years, we’ve always been there with other schools, but this group of guys from the other school was wonderful to be with,” said Kickham of the groups’ chemistry. “They were just reinforcing everything that we wanted to be about at SLUH, and I hope that we were reinforcing everything they wanted to be about Gonzaga.”
“I had a really fun time, especially bonding with the SLUH guys and also meeting the guys from Gonzaga High School,” said Hirlinger. “I had never done a whole lot of service at SLUH, and I liked just reaching out and trying something new. It came together for a fun time.”
Two of the days serving involved physical work, as the students worked in two separate community gardens which produce food for residents of Camden. After working in a community garden one day, the group served over 200 homeless people at a soup kitchen.
The two other days of service involved the ministry of presence. One of the days, the students went to an institution for kids with cerebral palsy. The other day, the group served at an adult day care where they talked, ate, and played games with the elderly and people with developmental disabilities.
“I thought it was a nice mix of intellectual service—talking to to people and playing games with people—and labor like painting fences and moving dirt,” said Zimmerman.
The group spent evenings at the Romero Center learning and praying about the challenges of the poor. The curriculum at the Romero Center also emphasized the power of being present to the poor.
“The group of guys that I was there with were there for the right reasons,” said Kickham, who chaperoned the trip for his third consecutive year. “They knew when to have fun, and they knew when to work, and they did the work with the right tone and the right purpose. They were very good in dealing with people from different backgrounds.”
“I think my biggest challenge, as with a lot of people, is reaching out and interacting with the community—especially just getting to talk to people that are there. I think that’s a struggle a lot of people have,” said Hirlinger.
Some of those who went on the trip stressed the importance of traveling to do a week of service rather than staying in St. Louis for a week of service.
“If you go somewhere else, it is a completely different environment and you’re not really used to what is going on there,” said Hirlinger when asked about the benefits of travelling to another city for a service trip. “The atmosphere of the retreat center along with the atmosphere of Camden provided a unique experience for us.”
“I would recommend doing something like this because it’s just out of the loop,” said Naumann. “You just get a lot more out of it because you can really focus in on what the service actually means while you’re there.”